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August 2005
Webcasts–live or on demand?

The use of webcasts in marketing is steadily increasing. This trend is expected to continue in the business-to-business (B2B) sector and, in particular, in technology fields. A recent survey conducted by research and consulting firm Interactive Media Strategies revealed that 60% of all companies are using webcasts in some form. The survey also cited webcasts as one of the two most effective external lead generators for B2B companies, the other being house-list e-mails.

Why are webcasts so effective? When products or services are complex, webcasts can shorten the awareness-consideration-purchase continuum. The combination of personalized narrative, compelling visuals and automated Q&A can drastically shorten viewers' learning curve and thus the sales cycle.

For any marketer utilizing webcasts, one of the big decisions is choosing whether to host a live presentation shown at a specific date and time or to offer on-demand presentations that clients and prospects can view at a Web site at their convenience.

On-demand advantages

On-demand webcasts offer a number of advantages.

First of all, viewers tend to favor the on-demand option. A survey by Bitpipe Inc., an information technology resource on the Web, revealed that 80% of B2B respondents preferred to choose when they watch a webcast.

Some of the statistics regarding scheduled webcast events, on the other hand, are less flattering. For example, in a recent study of the viewer database of Web-based services provider Accela Communications, only 28% of 12,000 registrants for a variety of programs actually viewed what they signed up to watch, even with repeated reminders.

What's more, even when viewers go online for a scheduled event, they may not stay for the duration. Kevin Hayden, Vice President of Interwoven, a content management company, attracted 2,000 information technology professionals to sign up to watch a 60-minute presentation. More than 1,000 actually did. That's a very high percentage and Interwoven was understandably pleased–until the webcast's tracking data showed that on average viewers stayed on for only 17 of the 60 minutes.

Ensuring production quality

Another factor giving on-demand webcasts an advantage is the ability to perfect in advance the production quality. You can't do that with a live presentation. But a Bitpipe Inc. survey showed that more than 73% of viewers said production quality had a significant impact on their overall impression of the presenting company.

Clearly the quality of visuals are critical in making a good initial impression with your webcast. However, keeping viewers' attention for the duration requires more. Quality content and professional delivery are at the core of retaining your viewer once you've "hooked" them. Studies consistently reveal that self-serving infomercial style presentations, or those with sub-par speaker quality, fail to retain their viewing audiences.

The often limited attention spans and time constraints of viewers are other detriments to live, scheduled webcasts. In studies, many webcast viewers have expressed a preference for being able to skip to specific interest areas and/or view a presentation at multiple sittings rather than having to watch a webcast in its entirety.

Complementary strategies

On-demand and live webcast presentations aren't mutually exclusive options, however. Some marketers will present a live webcast and then post it online for future on-demand viewing.

While this may seem to be the best of both worlds, there are some possible downsides.

The cost of marketing your "live premiere" may be high. You'll need to generate substantial viewer awareness, interest and follow-through to capture a quality viewing audience in numbers. If that audience includes prospects that know little about you and vice versa, this can be quite an undertaking in terms of both time and money and there is no guarantee of return on investment.

With a live webcast, you also risk technical glitches or a less than perfect delivery due to human error.

On the other hand, if you're reasonably confident that the subject matter or the reputation of the presenter will be compelling enough to garner a quality audience, a live webcast may be well worth the associated risks.

Once your presentation has been broadcast live, the lion's share of time and expense have been spent and archiving it for on-demand viewing typically requires little additional investment.


 . . .
FPS regularly works with financial services companies to maximize the impact of their client communications, including e-mail and online communications. To find out how we can help you develop effective strategies for communicating with corporate financial executives, contact FPS President Vince DiPaolo at 847-501-4120 or [email protected]. You can also write him at the following address:


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